Apple's move to bolster News app draws criticism
Apple is making a small change to its user experience that could potentially have a large impact on publishers.
The company intends to redirect users to its Apple News+ app should they click a link to an article from one of its News+ publishing partners, regardless if the link appeared in a search on Google or a tweet on Twitter.
Apple News+ is a $10 monthly subscription service that aggregates stories from publishers such as The Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, Bon Appétit, Bloomberg Businessweek and Vanity Fair, though not all major publishers are on board. The New York Times, for example, is focusing on getting subscribers to consume content through its app.
An Apple representative told Ad Age the change aims to improve user experience and privacy for News+ subscribers, adding that subscribers are opted in by default, but may change their preferences through its settings menu.
“This change offers subscribers seamless access to the content that is part of their News+ subscription right in the News app or publisher app, as well as providing publishers with increased engagement and revenue opportunities on Apple News,” Apple said in an emailed statement. “News+ subscribers can set their link preference in their News settings.”
Apple did not respond to several requests for comment as to whether it informed its publishing partners about the change.
Tony Haile, CEO of Scroll, a company that removes ads from websites in exchange for a monthly fee, spotted the change and tweeted about it.
Some industry executives say they believe the change benefits Apple instead of publishers.
“It’s just a continuation of Apple's default policy, which is to own the whole stack, use the whole stack, and promote the whole stack,” says John Koetsier, an ad industry analyst and consultant. “Before that meant hardware and software. Now it also includes content.”
Apple’s decision is a "bold attempt" to force their way into the news business, says David Finkelstein, CEO & Co-founder of BDEX, a data intelligence company.
“By making their own News platform more accessible, Apple is positioning themselves as a news provider, one aspect of their business that they aren’t really a contender in as compared to Google or Facebook,” says Finkelstein. “This could be their attempt to get news publishers on-board with working with Apple.”
By that, he means that the update seems aimed at luring more subscribers, thus increasing Apple's leverage with publishers.
But Finkelstein argues the change will result in fewer eyeballs on a publisher’s site, which in turn will make it a less desirable location for ad buys. “It will cost real dollars to publishers making it more difficult for them to operate,” he says.
Apple did not respond to a question about that critique.